Before the Internet, locating someone was a complicated process that possibly involved hiring a private detective or a people-finding service. But today the Internet offers anyone with a computer easily accessible information--the recent explosion of free networking, reunion and people-finding sites makes it simple to locate a lost friend or loved one. And using a telephone or the mail is still a legitimate way to find someone. A little detective work and time is all you need to track a person down without paying a dime.
Gather What You Can Find
Find all available relevant information about the person before you start your search. An old phone number, for example, may lead you to someone who knows something about him. If you have an old address, visit the surrounding neighbors and ask if they know his whereabouts.
Start With Search Engines
Type her name into an online search engine, such as Yahoo or Google. Search engines can provide an enormous amount of information about someone, especially if she has a high level of online activity. Search for her home address, telephone number, email address or place of employment.
Try Social Media
Look for him through your social and business networking sites, such as Facebook or LinkedIn. Enter his name in each site's search feature; if you find his name, send a contact or friend request. If this doesn’t work, consider joining additional networking sites to expand your search.
Search a People-Finding Site
Visit a free people-finding website, such as ZabaSearch or Pipl. All you need is the person’s last name to find her address, although more information helps to narrow the search. Some people-search sites also let you do a reverse search by email, phone number or username.
Go Back in Time
Use a reunion website such as Classmates.com. If you know where he attended high school or college, add it to your school list for the appropriate class year. This will allow you to view all the class' members and possibly find him.
Check With Mutual Friends
Create a list of friends or contacts you and the person have in common. Contact anyone on the list who may know her present location. If you don’t have contact information for these old friends and Internet searches yield no results, contact them the old-fashioned way: call their last-known telephone numbers or send letters to last-known addresses.
Take Out an Ad
Place an ad on craigslist.org or a similar free classified website. The person you’re looking for or someone who knows him may see it and contact you.
Based in Royal Oak, Mich., Christine Wheatley has been writing professionally since 2009. She contributes to several websites, specializing in articles about fitness, diet and parenting. Wheatley has a Bachelor of Arts in art from Calvin College.